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Children ‘not too young’ to choose mother instead of father

A woman has won the right to keep her children with her in England after a court ruled that an eight-year-old and a six-year-old were not too young to have their views taken into account during a parental dispute.

The case involved a couple who had three children during their marriage. The family had lived in the Republic of Ireland until 2009 when the woman decided to leave and take the children aged eight, six and three to England. She did not inform her husband that she was leaving.

He then began proceedings to have the children returned to him in Ireland. The woman claimed that she left him because he drank excessively and was violent and abusive towards her. He denied those allegations.

The woman opposed her husband’s application on several grounds including the fact that the eight-year-old and the six-year old did not want to return to Ireland. They had told an officer from Cafcass - the organisation that protects the interests of children in court proceedings - that they were frightened of their father and did not want to return to him.

The father submitted that the children were too young to have their views considered.

However, the High Court held that there was no absolute cut-off age for deciding whether or not a child was sufficiently mature enough to express an opinion. It held that in this case, the two children had shown they had a sufficient degree of maturity to have their views taken into account.

They had nothing positive to say about their father and had told the Cafcass officer that they were frightened of him. Those views should be respected and so the father’s application to have the children returned to Ireland had to fail.

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